September 17, 2014

U. S. House Moves Forward on Trade Secrets Bill

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By Frank Cullen

Congress took a step today toward protecting American businesses from trade secrets theft.  The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary passed out of committee the bipartisan Trade Secrets Protection Act, which creates a federal civil remedy for trade secrets misappropriation.

While many complain about how tough it is to accomplish anything in Congress, this bipartisan effort offers a common-sense approach to a problem that impacts not only American industry but consumers as well.   The theft of confidential, proprietary information that is often the key to a company’s success, can lead to the loss of American jobs and reduced U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.

The impact on our economy from trade secrets theft is a very real threat, as the value of trade secrets to U.S. companies was estimated to be almost $5 trillion in 2009.  Today’s action demonstrates that when Members of Congress work together, they can produce meaningful solutions to our nation’s most complex problems.

In addition to creating a federal civil cause of action that gives companies another tool to fight trade secrets theft, the bill will help quantify the scope of this problem by mandating a biannual report compiled by the U.S.  Department of Justice.  The study will cover a broad range of issues including the role of foreign governments who engage in state-sponsored trade secrets theft and how to better protect against this ever increasing threat in the digital age.   Currently, companies seeking relief at the federal level can only pursue criminal penalties in trade secrets cases and a civil remedy will increase the options available to industry to deal with this serious and complex problem.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Ranking Member John Conyers, along with bill sponsors Reps. George Holding and Jerry Nadler, and all Members of the Committee who co-sponsored and voted in support of this important legislation deserve recognition for their efforts to protect American industry and jobs.

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